Artist Mary MacCarthy painting at Norwich market

Paint Out Norwich en plein air competition takes to the streets


Dozens of artists will descend on Norwich’s historic streets for the UK’s leading juried entry outdoor painting competition entitled Paint Out Norwich this autumn, which is held as part of the Hostry Festival.

Attracting national and international artists, the timed two-day competition aims to revive and reinvigorate the genre of the *en plein air painting tradition and offers a rare opportunity for members of the public to see the artists at work and facing the challenges of creating art outdoors in public view – inclement weather being one of them. Artists work in three hour periods on October 17 and 18 in defined locations in and around the city, so do stop and watch when you see them.

paint out norwich
James Colman painting on-the beach at paint out Wells 2015 sunrise event

For the first time artists can enter by their preferred medium which broadens out the opportunities for them to win and means their work is judged alongside those working in the same medium. But they are all subjected to a rigorous online application and judging process which ensures the highest standard.

By the time we went to press the first 20+ artists had been selected.

The works are exhibited during a ticket-only gala preview on October 19, and can be purchased through a silent auction. Works will be judged by eminent names from the art world, and monetary prizes of about £5000 awarded on the night. The exhibition continues daily from 9-4pm at the Cathedral Hostry until October 29.

Paint Out is not solely an event for professional artists, but the days prior are open to budding artists and any member of the public aged 18 and above. The first day, October 15, comprises a series of book-in-advance workshops covering portrait painting, watercolours, a nocturne masterclass and others to be announced, all held at Anteros Arts Centre, which together with North Café and Bar is providing the artist’s hub.

James Colman
James Colman painting en plein air

The following day October 16 is a mass participation Paint Out around Tombland, a chance for anyone to come and paint alongside professional artists and produce work that can be framed on request and an unprecedented opportunity to have their work exhibited publicly. Organiser James Colman, himself an extensive exponent of en plein air painting (see him at work, pictured) said,” This is a really exciting opportunity not only for the public to stand in landmark areas of the city and draw and paint, but to do it knowing they could be working alongside professional arts who are testing out locations ready for the competition.

“En plein air is tougher than it looks; you are constantly chasing the light. It is a fantastic tradition stretching back to the 18th century from to take the innovations of the past and expand them.

“We hope everyone will take advantage of being able to have a go and be excited by the prospect of their works being framed and hung in one of Norwich’s most vibrant art centres.”

paint out norwich

Early registration and applications are recommended. For more information visit Keep up with the action on, follow on Twitter @paintoutnorwich


  • En plein air is a French expression meaning “in the open air – painting outdoors.” Historically it was a style of painting developed in France in the mid-19th century executed outdoors and as a direct response to the scene or subject in front of the artist.
  • In the last 12 years it has been enjoying a revival, particularly in the US.
  • It has particular relevance to Norwich, as the Norwich School artists – John Sell Cotman, John Crome, Joseph Stannard – exhibited in the Colman Gallery at the Castle Museum in Norwich, were exponents of this genre.



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